Scott wrote this morning about the extraordinary email that National Security Advisor Susan Rice wrote to herself at 12:15 on January 20, 2017, within minutes of when President Trump was inaugurated. It must have been her last act, more or less, before she vacated the White House. So obviously the email was important to her. But why would it be important to send an email to herself (the only person copied was one of her aides)?
If you read the email, which Scott posted along with Senator Grassley’s letter to Rice, it is obvious that it is a CYA memo. But the question is, whose A is being C’d?
Most attention, so far, has focused on the first two paragraphs of the email, which describe a meeting that occurred around two weeks earlier. The participants included Barack Obama, Joe Biden, James Comey, Sally Yates–who turns up like a bad penny whenever skulduggery is afoot–and Rice:
President Obama began the conversation by stressing his continued commitment to ensuring that every aspect of this issue is handled by the Intelligence and law enforcement communities “by the book”. The President stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective. He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book.
This is pure boilerplate. It represents, obviously, the company line. But Rice did not write her email to cover Barack Obama’s rear end. If she or anyone else had wanted to document the claim that Obama said to proceed “by the book,” the appropriate course would have been an official memo that copied others who were present and would have gone into the file. (My guess is that such a memo was written, but we haven’t seen it.) In my opinion, the important part of the email is not the paragraph that purports to exonerate Obama, but the paragraphs that follow:
From a national security perspective, however, President Obama said he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason that we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia.
The next paragraph of the email remains classified and has been redacted. The email concludes:
The President asked Comey to inform him if anything changes in the next few weeks that should affect how we share classified information with the incoming team. Comey said he would.
Why did Susan Rice send herself an email purporting to document this part of the meeting? Because she was C’ing her own A. Rice was nervous about the fact that, at the president’s direction, she had failed to “share information fully as it relates to Russia” with President Trump’s incoming national security team. This violated longstanding American tradition. Outgoing administrations have always cooperated in the transition to a new administration, whether of the same or the opposing party, especially on matters relating to national security.
Susan Rice is far from the brightest bulb on the tree, but she was well aware that by concealing facts ostensibly relating to national security from her counterpart in the new administration–General Michael Flynn–she was, at a minimum, violating longstanding civic norms. If she actually lied to Flynn, she could have been accused of much worse. So Rice wanted to be able to retrieve her email, if she found herself in a sticky situation, and tell the world that she hid relevant facts about Russia from the new administration on Barack Obama’s orders.
What were the secrets that Obama wanted to keep from the new administration? We can easily surmise that the fact that the Steele memo was paid for by the Democratic Party; that the FBI had to some degree collaborated with Steele; that the Clinton campaign had fed some of the fake news in the dossier to Steele; and that Comey’s FBI had used Steele’s fabrications as the basis for FISA warrants to spy on the Trump campaign were among the facts that Obama and his minions didn’t want Michael Flynn and Donald Trump to know. Susan Rice, we can infer, was told to keep these secrets, and if anyone ever asked why she had failed to disclose them to Michael Flynn and others on Trump’s team, or even lied to those people, she would have the defense that President Obama ordered her to do it.
There may be more to it than this. The redacted paragraph likely contains more information about what it was that Rice wasn’t supposed to tell the Trump team. One of these days, we will learn what was blacked out.
The fact that Michael Flynn was Susan Rice’s counterpart in the incoming administration may also be significant. We know that the FBI agents who interviewed General Flynn–even Peter Strzok!–reported that they didn’t think he had lied about anything. And yet, Obama’s DOJ and Bob Mueller’s “investigation”–basically a continuation of Obama’s corrupt Department of Justice under another, less accountable name–persecuted Flynn to the point where he finally pled guilty to a single count of lying to the FBI in order, as he says, to end the madness and the financial drain.
Why were the Democrats so determined to discredit General Flynn? Perhaps because they wanted to pre-empt any outrage that may otherwise have followed on revelations that the Obama administration’s National Security Advisor hid important facts from her successor during the transition, and may have lied to him about those facts, in violation of all American tradition.
CYA memos are rarely a good idea. Most often, they reveal what the author was trying to conceal. I think that is the case with regard to Susan Rice’s now-infamous email to herself.